The 1960s were a time of tumult and tragedy but also an era of positive change. In popular music culture, there was a mixing of styles and races and ideas that resulted in extraordinary bills in the concert halls and extraordinary range in the record collections of individual listeners. Even the Billboard charts reflected the more inclusive spirit of the time. Perhaps Soul music is the best example of a form that brought into the same room groups that were otherwise living at a distance from one another. As Andrew Young suggests in an interview included here, the music carried the messages of the Civil Rights movement in a way that even the movement’s leaders could not.

But more change was coming. The 1970s marked not only the inward turn of the Singer-Songwriter movement, it marked a time in which the “mixing” of the 1960s gave way to new divisions. Some audiences began identifying themselves with one kind of music rather than a range, as was the case with the Heavy Metal audience. Others made a great case for what they would never listen to, as was the case with the backlash against Disco. The inclusive spirit of the 1960s this was not. A number of movements burst out as reactions to other movements. If the Singer-Songwriter scene was strong on songs but weak on theater, fashion, and performance, Glam came along to address that, with sequins on and, often, amplifiers turned back up.

At radio and on the charts, much of the black music of the era reversed the path taken by popular Soul and established its own territory, a shift that wouldn’t have been possible if the black and white audiences weren’t somehow complicit in allowing it. Funk, for instance, was a black music that played largely to a black audience.

But if unity was replaced with new divisions, there were nonetheless positive developments spurred on by these changes. In their own niche areas, artists dug deep into their “thing.” In this chapter, Reggae, Disco, Funk, a new class of Singer-Songwriter/bandleaders that included Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Billy Joel, and a handful of other developments will be the subject of lessons that capture the 1970s as a decade of many directions.

View More


View Lesson

Funk Asserts Itself

How did 1970s Funk respond to African-American life in the decade following the Civil Rights movement?
View Lesson

The Rise of Disco

How did Disco relate to the sentiments and social movements of the 1970s?